Xun Wei Pavilion
The man came over after receiving an invitation, wearing a splendid black outfit adorned with a jade brocade. He strode inside, with two hands resting on his back. His face was remarkably beautiful and his forehead had a hint of arrogance hidden in it. His every movement carried an air of nobility.
“Second Lord Zhao?”
“Oh! Second Lord Zhao! Quickly, come inside, come inside.”
When the people inside saw the man, they immediately stood up. Their tone of voice carried the courtesy and gratition that they couldn’t bring themselves to say out loud. A few of them were wearing four or five jadeite rings, green ones and red ones. Everyone who looked upon them would have been dazzled. Their clothes were all inlaid with golden thread. The picture of them gave off an overpowering aura of wealth and nobility.
Zhao Zun chuckled. When he was mixed in with the group of them, he looked very much so like a son from a noble family. Even though his entire body, from the top of it to the bottom, hadn’t even the slightest hint of wealth and nobility.
“Boss Chen, Boss Wang and Boss Li. I trust you’ve been well since we’ve last met.”
Zhao Zun sat on the sidelines. He looked around the circle of people but saw no trace of that person. It had been many days now so how come he hadn’t even seen them once?
Zhao Zun was starting to feel doubtful. Zhao Qi followed his line of sight. Except for some of the people who were eating, there was nothing particularly notable. Even though the food offered at the Xunwei Pavilion was delicious, it certainly wasn’t worth visiting everyday.
Zhao Qi was bewildered.
“Second Lord Zhao, we’ve been hoping for you to come by. At the foot of the Son of Heaven*, these government officials look down at us who do business.”
(TN: Son of Heaven is the emperor.)
“Exactly. They’ve been constantly suppressing and exploiting us. They say to us, every month tributes paid to them must not be lower than this number or that. We’re all small scale businesses. How could we afford it?”
As that person spoke, he reached out his hand and gestured for a moment, revealing his anger and unwillingness to follow through with these tributes.
“Hey! Don’t mention that. Last month the grandson of the Duke went to a store and left with five thousand silver tael worth of antiques. But the Duke favors him and in the palace there’s also an imperial concubine supporting him so who would dare to provoke him?”
“If this continues, sooner or later we’ll have to pack our things up and leave. Don’t even mention earning money, on the contrary we’ve been suffering heavy financial losses.”
The few people who were speaking were also sighing in despair, their faces revealing their sense of helplessness.
“Fortunately, the Second Lord Zhao was arrived. After today, we’re willing to serve the Second Lord faithfully and we hope that you do not turn your back to us.”
“The fact the Second Lord Zhao can come to the capital means that imperial business is just around the corner. We hope the Second Lord will be promoted many times.”
As they spoke, some of the, stood up just so they could bow to Zhao Zun and offer him a toast.
Zhao Zun pursed his lips a few times, “Everyone, please sit. It is the first time I have visited the capital. I am careless and unfamiliar with the area. How could I dare to be arrogant and assert myself here? All of you have families and in the business world are known to be people with a good head on their shoulders. In business, there will be wins and there will be losses. Why should you bicker over this?”
When Zhao Zun finished speaking, a few people came to a realization. They had, after all, arrived at the capital a few years earlier than Zhao Zun had and it’s not like their previous experiences and years of expertise were something money could buy.
As they followed that train of thought, a few people naturally started to feel smug.
“Oh yes, tomorrow is Princess Jinshu’s birthday. What have all of you prepared for gifts?”
Boss Wan looked quite pleased with himself. He clasped his hands together and softly said, “I entrusted Mr. Zhang to deliver her a jade Goddess of Mercy statue and nephrite jade.”
“Boss Wang, what a large amount of money you spent. I prepared an authentic Wang Xizhi* calligraphy piece, and I’ve entrusted Mr. Wen to bring it in.”
(TN: Wang Xizhi lived during the Jin Dynasty from 265-420 and is known to be a calligraphy master. Wikipedia for more info)
“Boss Chen, that present isn’t bad either. I heard news that the emperor’s new son in law is especially fond of military equipment so I went out of my way to find a double-edged sword.”
The few people couldn’t help but give Boss Li a few looks, their eyes flashing. Who wasn’t aware that the Princess had a soft spot for the emperor’s son-in-law?
“Boss Li, that is a very good present. You’d definitely be able to win the Princess’s favor. How pitiful that none of us received an invitation to the event.”
The corner of Zhao Qi’s twitched upwards, feeling like his lord had been too unperturbed and unresponsive. He looked over to Zhao Zun and saw that he looked antsy in his chair and was about to stand up.
“This emperor’s son-in-law, Liu, he really is something else. He not only coaxed the princess into running around in circles, but he also praises his stepdaughter like she’s a treasure, placing her in the same rank as the biological daughter, Princess Qing Le.”
“Hehe, all of you don’t even know the half of it. Princess Qing Le gets along with the Right Minister’s Ninth Miss very well. The two are birds of a feather. A few days ago Xiao Ninth Miss was punishing her subordinates and wasn’t showing them the slightest bit of mercy. She really resembles the Right Minister!”
Zhao Zun was shocked to hear this and was taken aback. He sat back down in his chair.
“The Ninth Miss of the Minister’s manor is close with the first daughter of Princess Jinshu?” Zhao Zun asked.
“Far more than close. Those two are never far apart from each other so their nickname is the Capital’s twin sisters.”
When Boss Wang finished speaking, Boss Chen picked up where he left off.
“If you’re blunt about the reason for Xiao Yuan attending the princess’s party it’s so she can go take a look at the people there. If you think about it, she cancelled her marriage with the third prince. No matter how much power the Right Minister has, who’s willing to offend the great prince?”
These words sank into Zhao Zun’s consciousness and his eyes developed a fierce glint. He slammed the wine cup in his hand onto the table and stood up.
“I have some business to attend to so I’ll be taking my leave. This meal is on me. May all the bosses here enjoy it at their convenience.”
After Zhao Zun finished speaking, he strode outside.
The few people were taken aback but then their expressions started to change subtly and following Zhao Zun’s disappearance, they started to point some fingers.
“Humph! Sooner or later there’ll be a time when he gets his just desserts!”
As Zhao Zun was walking, he only had two sentences on his mind. Tomorrow Xiao Wan will also be in attendance. Furthermore, she’ll be looking for a potential husband.
Zhao Zun looked at Zhao Qi askance, “Go prepare a present. A jade goddess of mercy and a Wang Xizhi calligraphy piece. Additionally, get a Ferghana horse and a bronze double-edged sword.”
The corner of Zhao Qi’s mouth raised, “Lord, won’t this be too much?”
Zhao Zun glared at Zhao Qi, “Be quiet. If I want you to do it, then go do it. And another thing, go get an invitation!”
Zhao Qi figured out the reason for all these gifts. His lord was attending the birthday feast to go court the Ninth Xiao Miss.
“But Lord, this subordinate already rejected that invitation.”
Zhao Zun narrowed his eyes and gave Zhao Qi a look, a look that was bone chilling. Zhao Qi’s back went cold.
Zhao Zun looked towards sky, lost in thought. Across from them a horse cart came by and Lian Jiming happened to be the passenger.
Zhao Zun’s eyes flashed and he smirked.
The old madam drew up a list of names and decided to only bring Xiao Yuan and the second house’s Xiao Shu. Originally, she had also planned on bringing along Xiao Ying but her reaction had been overboard that time when the great prince came so the old madam decided to erase Xiao Ying’s name from the list.
When Xiao Ying was informed afterwards, she tightly clenched her fist and lowered her head to glower at Xiao Yuan.
Wearing a light yellow outfit and looking very tender and moving, her face had been done up with exquisite makeup. On her head she wasn’t wearing many ornaments but the ones she was wearing were exceptionally rare and high-quality ornaments. With them decorating Xiao Yuan’s body, the very sight of her was eye dazzling.
Tears appeared in Xiao Ying’s eyes but luckily, she had already made preparations earlier. She wanted to go and anxiously gazed at the old madam.
The old madam acted as if she didn’t noticed and immediately walked out the door with the two people.
Xiao Shu naturally wasn’t willing to steal Xiao Yuan’s limelight. However, she carried a different kind of charm. She was dressed entirely in a light purple color but it didn’t come off as ostentatious. She was especially sweet-tempered and magnanimous. Only younger than Xiao Ying by three months, she was the second oldest.
Xiao Yuan looked at her and her eyes faintly gleamed. The two of them sat obediently in the carriage, waiting to arrive at the manor. The entire way over the old madam kept instructing Xiao Yuan over and over, making Xiao Yuan’s petite face turn bright red just from listening to her. She felt both embarrassed and helpless.
Xiao Wan nodded her head, promising to listen to her and at this promise, the old madam finally felt reassured.